SAGE are a Croatian power metal band formed in 2013. Their debut album, Anno Domini 1573, (out on Rockshots Records) is a concept album based on Croatia’s peasant’s revolt of 1573 and will be released on 21 September 2018.
The album opens with “Rivers Will Be Full of Blood”. The song introduces the listener to the theatrical nature of the album with a gloomy, atmospheric intro. This eventually breaks into a fast, intricate song with soaring, almost Serj Tankian-esque vocals.
“Rebellion” follows, it’s got a powerful, stomping intro, operatic vocals and hooky riffs. The lead guitar playing is great, and I felt that the vocals really shine on this song, overall a really good track.
“Wolf Priest” has a slower, more melodic intro with stabbing, syncopated, echoey guitars. There’s a nice riff with squealing pinch harmonics. The vocal harmonies in the incredibly melodic, hooky chorus stood out.
“Dragonheart” again features a syncopated intro. The fuzzy, driven bass guitar really carries this song. It’s a nice change of pace and show’s SAGE’s range. The vocals are powerful as usual and there’s a nice tapped solo. One thing to note, this song introduces what will become a recurring vocal effect. I appreciate the experimentation, but in this song (and others on the album) it felt unnecessary and didn’t really add anything to the overall sound.
“Two Souls” features a quiet, electronic intro. You’ll have noticed by now that almost every song has a distinct intro section. Not just a brief, two second intro, more often than not there’s a longer, extended intro that sets up the tone and feel of the rest of the song. I actually enjoyed this. It made the songs feel more unique, giving them a sense of character and individualism and (as we’ll see later) the use of sample’s and sound effects help to build the story that SAGE are trying to tell. The vocals eventually come in hot. The song builds up a little but ultimately remains pretty laid back. The drums really stood out to me. It’s rhythmically pleasing, and the drummer really shows off his chops.
“Blacksmith’s Tale” utilises theatrical sound effects to build a sense of atmosphere and scale. The drinking of metal is a small detail, but I thought it gave the song a little something extra. There’s a beefy riff and stabbing, broken rhythms. There’s also a nice string section. “Man of Sorrow” again features an atmospheric intro. There’s spoken-word style vocals in the verse sections and you get a real sense of storytelling. There’s nice rhythm changes and the whole thing feels like a journey. “Join Us” breaks the mould a little bit and jumps straight in, skipping the expected intro. It’s fast and abrasive and features a range of rhythm and tempo changes. It’s a well layered song, each instrument given space to shine, particularly the drums and bass, mainly due to the rhythmic nature of the song. There’s also a frantic, electro-synth style section that again shows the range of the band.
“Treason” opens with a twinkling intro before a groovy riff comes in below it. It’s a strange contrast in styles, but it more or less works. Not the best song overall, pretty generic, but the solo is decent and the kind of breakdown section was enjoyable.
“Battle” starts with what I assume is a flute solo. I’m not really sure what the instrument is but it doesn’t sound good. The actual melody is decent but the sound is really not. The song does get progressively better though. Being more than 7 minutes in length, it has time to grow and flow through a range of different styles. The vocals are impressive throughout and the band experiments with a wide range of instruments, most of which help to create a medieval atmosphere. There’s some really enjoyable solos as well and overall it’s a very good song.
“Heaven Open your Gates” the final track, opens with regal, angelic sounding choir vocals. It’s a nice touch but they go on for about a minute and half, which felt like a little too long. The song itself features some nice clean guitar playing and has a real laidback feel. There’s some stabbing guitars that add dynamics and it eventually builds up to a huge finale with a monster guitar solo before falling away to more choir vocals, concluding the album.
Overall, I think Anno Domini 1573 is a good album. It’s certainly got some issues, but in general I enjoyed it. It certainly does it’s job as a concept album, you definitely get a real sense of storytelling throughout and the use of sound effects and period appropriate instruments (for the most part) really enhance that. Rhythmically the album is excellent, the drumming and bass playing impressed me throughout. The vocals highlight what is a full and layered sound on an album that is definitely worth a listen.
1 Rivers Will Be Full of Blood
3 Wolf Priest
4 Dragon Heart
5 Two Souls
6 Blacksmith’s Tale
7 Man Of Sorrow
8 Join Us
11 Heaven Open Your Gates
Review by Josh Farrell